Mix and match when it comes to pairing pizza with wine
Pizza may be the perfect food.
It covers all the major food groups, and it offers nearly infinite possibilities, no matter your dietary preferences or restrictions. Grains, dairy, meat and vegetables feature in every bite, if you want them to, except for those prized nibbles of crust when the rest of the pie is gone. Pizza makes a great lunch, dinner -- and even breakfast, that congealed feast from the fridge we all remember from college.
Pairing wines with pizza can be as enjoyable as eating it. There may be no such thing as a "pizza wine," because there are so many variations of pizza. Margherita or meat lovers? Clam or Hawaiian? There's no one answer, but we sure can have a good time mixing and matching. A pizza party is a great opportunity to open a variety of wines and have fun.
But there are some principles to keep in mind:
Pizza is casual food, appropriate for casual wine. Drop the pretension and go for fun. This is not the time to pull out your collectibles. Look "out of the box," pardon the pun, and challenge yourself with a wine you've never heard of. If you have a bottle you've been staring at, wondering what to pair it with, pair it with pizza.
Red sauce does not require red wine. We tend to look at the tomato sauce on a pizza (or pasta) and think "red needs red." But the acidity of tomato sauce pairs nicely with a crisp white wine. It could be your favorite pinot grigio, but I would urge you to explore other white wines that favor acidity over oak. Soave, Verdicchio or refreshing rosés from just about anywhere meet these criteria. A margherita pizza, with just red sauce, basil and cheese, is a good candidate for a white wine.
Match the wine to the toppings. Lots of pepperoni and sausage on your pie? This calls for a red. A nero D'avola from Sicily fits the bill, but so does a Sangiovese from Tuscany or Romagna, or a Valpolicella from up near Venice.
Here's a sneaky pick for a "meat lovers" pizza: lambrusco. A dry sparkling red wine from northern Italy, and a traditional partner for salumi and other antipasti, lambrusco may be one of the world's most underrated wines and is a great match for pepperoni and other spicy meat toppings on pizza. Lambrusco seems weird to us -- it's that wine our mothers kept in the door of the fridge, from which we'd sneak a sip or two when everyone else had gone to bed. (Guilty!) But true lambrusco is not that slightly sweet swill of our memory. It boasts an earthy, dark cherry character that matches well with smoked or cured meats, such as pepperoni and salami. Its palate-cleansing bubbles cut through the spice of red pepper flakes and the funk of roasted or dried garlic. And it's versatile. I love lambrusco with charcuterie, pizza and smoked meats such as barbecue.
Just remember: Pizza is fun food, and all it requires is a fun wine to wash it down. What could be simpler?